Machen, Arthur [Llewellyn Jones]


Machen, Arthur [Llewellyn Jones]
   (1863–1947)
   Welsh author of horror stories, journalist, autobiographer. Machen gained early notoriety for “The Great God Pan” (1890; collected in The Great God Pan and The Inmost Light [1894]), The Three Impostors(1895), and other works that were accused of being the outpourings of a diseased and licentious imagination. HPL discovered Machen in late spring 1923, evidently at the urging of Frank Belknap Long (see SL1.250); at that time HPL actually considered Machen “the greatest living author” ( SL1.234). Machen was temperamentally very different from HPL: an Anglo-Catholic and mystic, he bitterly resented the increasing authority of science over human affairs. HPL’s “The Dunwich Horror” seems clearly a borrowing of the central idea of “The Great God Pan” (a god impregnating a human being), while that of “Cool Air” is (by HPL’s own admission) derived in part from “Novel of the White Powder” (a segment in The Three Impostors). “The Call of Cthulhu” and “The Whisperer in Darkness” owe something to “Novel of the Black Seal” in the same volume, which conveys horror by the “documentary approach” of slow and meticulous accumulation of physical evidence. HPL also appreciated the sensitive aesthetic novel The Hill of Dreams (1907) and the short horror novel The Terror (1917), as well as Machen’s autobiographies, Far Off Things (1922), Things Near and Far (1923), and The London Adventure (1924), which speak poignantly of his impoverished life in London and his walks around that city. “The Unnamable” (1923) may reflect Machen’s critical theories as expressed in Hieroglyphics: A Note upon Ecstasy in Literature (1902). HPL also read Machen’s late novel, The Green Round (1933), but found it disappointingly vague and unfocused. Machen’s best short tales are collected in The House of Souls (1906), which contains “The White People,” considered by HPL the second greatest weird tale in all literature; see also Tales of Horror and the Supernatural (1948).
   See Wesley D.Sweetser, Arthur Machen (1964); S.T.Joshi, “Arthur Machen: The Mystery of the Universe,” in The Weird Tale (1990); Mark Valentine, Arthur Machen (1995).

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